A Hit Like A Cannonball
I don't think any of us realised how much we missed and needed Little Mix. In a year dominated by pop music showing worrying signs of homogenising into a tropical sounding mush (to the extent that at least one new music review site couldn't bring itself to appreciate any 'new' releases this week), true hit status reserved for a select coterie of acts and a general feeling of staleness at times, they have exploded back into our lives like a joyous eight-breasted rainbow coloured missile. Pop music that is bright, breezy, intoxicating and perhaps most significantly of all British.
And they were willing to take risks with it too. The brand new Little Mix single Shout Out To My Ex was released via what you might call On Air On Sale Extreme. Under wraps even at the start of this current sales week it was unleashed onto the world via a performance on last Sunday's X Factor results show and made available for streaming and purchase immediately afterwards. This was a bold step, even setting aside the Week 1 mindset. Those who have attempted midweek release stunts of late have found themselves gasping for air almost immediately. Not Little Mix. The midweek update arrived on Monday lunchtime and placed the single at Number 14 after literally just four hours on sale, a position all the more impressive when you consider this was based on digital sales alone thanks to Apple and Spotify as per usual being a day behind in reporting their numbers.
Those buried deep in the industry watched the daily totals roll in with almost breathless anticipation. By Tuesday Little Mix were in second place and closing fast on James Arthur's two day lead. On Thursday lunchtime they sneaked ahead. Selling 67,000 copies and being streamed 2.8m times the result was never in doubt. In a year when debuting at the top of the charts became rare and circumstances indicated it would soon become all but impossible Shout Out To My Ex has done just that. And achieved it with a little over four days worth of sales and streams data to boot.
Now we must be careful here because this Official UK Singles chart ambush has been by and large thanks to an overwhelming sales lead, Little Mix at one stage apparently outselling James Arthur by a ratio of 5:1 on the live tables. It is a very 2012 sales profile for sure. But selling be damned, you still cannot hope to top the charts at the first hit without singificant streaming support and it is hard to ignore the fact that Shout Out To My Ex had ramped up to doing half a million streams a day after just 48 hours, totals which most other acts take weeks to achieve if ever at all. At a risk of dragging even more strangualted metaphors into this piece, this is a record which dropped a bomb into both important markets and has its just reward as a result. But, and it is a crucial one, the single is actually only the seventh most streamed track of the week. With its sales inevitably front-loaded and snapped up by dedicated fans, they will need to maintain this streaming momentum and indeed build on it to be another multi-week Number One single.
So what of the historical significance. It is Little Mix's fourth UK Number One hit single, their first since Black Magic spent three weeks at the summit in July 2015. That's more Number One singles than any other X Factor winning act has ever achieved and in terms of show alumnus only bettered by the six and five managed by JLS and One Direction respectively, neither of whom ended up winning the competition. The 2011 winners succeed 2012 winner James Arthur at the top of the charts, the first time victorious X Factor acts have succeeded each other at Number One since Leona Lewis gave way to newly crowned victor Alexandra Burke in December 2008. For those still keeping count, this is the 42nd Number One single clocked up by an act connected with the series. It has not gone unnoticed either that the three British acts to reach the top of the charts this year - ZAYN, James Arthur and Little Mix are all alumni of the X Factor TV show.
Little Mix also blast through the X Factor winners benchmark set by James Arthur just a few weeks ago. As the 2011 show winners Tulisa's "Lil' Muffins" are at the top of the UK charts further removed from their show victory than any other winner. The only other act who can compare are fellow TV-created girl group Girls Aloud who had their last Number One single in November 2008 almost six years after the members were voted in by viewers of the Popstars: The Rivals TV show.
Surrendering his place at the top of the charts has not come easily to James Arthur who spent the end of the week reverting to type and sneering at what he saw as a manufactured track, echoing too the thoughts of some that Shout Out To My Ex is of a similar vibe to the G.R.L. track Ugly Heart. Which in fairness it is, although Ugly Heart was a magnificent pop record and in truth so is this - even if it takes a couple of plays to get properly under your skin.
Feed Me More
With the Little Mix track possibly settling in for a run at Number One this is maybe to the detriment of Hailee Steinfed's Starving which maintains its momentum from the last few weeks this week gatecrashes the Top 5 with a 17-5 jump (Sales: 3, Streams: 10). The debut chart single for the former child actress has traced a chart life which is the polar opposite of the Little Mix single. First charting at the end of August after nearly a month on sale already, it spent four weeks hauling itself up the table slowly towards the Top 40 before moving 40-37-28-17-5. Starving has also handed a chart debut to American duo Grey and drags the also co-credited Zedd back into the UK Top 10 for the first time since his own Stay The Night hit Number 2 in February 2014.
Credit Where It Is (Not Due)
Not quite making the Top 10 this time around but also making solid chart progress is Sexual from Swedish producert Neiked which lifts 24-12 (Sales: 7, Streams: 15) in its sixth week on the Top 100 and almost three months after it was first released. What is most intriguing here is that the singles chart formally lists Neiked as the sole performer on the track, omitting the credit for singer Dyo whichb you will find almost everywhere else. Which is crazy as "Dyo' is the new name for a lady who has already made her mark on a number of top selling records. 24 year old Oladayo Olatunji previously performed as Ms D, topping the charts alongside Chipmunk's Oopsy Daisy in 2009 and Wiley's Heatwave in 2012. She has a brand new solo deal of her own and is presumably being groomed for big things under her new identity, making it all the more curious that she for now isn't being granted the soft landing that a brand presence on the Neiked smash hit would give her.
Just Dance Like Jagger
Maroon 5's next album will be their sixth all told, but we are still having to wait for it. To fill the gap in the meantime Adam Levine et al are back with a one-off single which may or may not end up on the new collection, released instead for now as a tie-in with the forthcoming "Just Dance 2017" video game. Featuring a guest apperance from Kendrick Lamarr Don't Wanna Know makes short work of a trip up the charts and smashes in at Number 16 (Sales: 8, Streams: 30). The most fascinating detail about Maroon 5's chart history is that their only track to date to peak between 11 and 20 was their debut Harder To Breathe which crept to Number 13 in January 2004. All their other hits have either been huge Top 10 successes or fallen well short. So you might want to watch this one with interest to see where it ends up beyond Week 1.
All Good Things Come
It is a track which has been mentioned in dispatches in other places, but not on these pages so far and it would somehow be wrong to let it sink out of sight without acknowledgement. Please Don't Go is the debut single from Joel Adams, a 19 year old Australian who first came to prominence as a failed auditionee on X Factor in his native country in 2012. The independently released single is notable due to the extraordinary singles chart profile it has traced. An ever-present since Week Ending July 9th it spent the first 10 weeks of its chart life shuttling between positions 50 and 59, reaching its one and only chart peak of Number 50 at the very start of August. For the past seven weeks it has moved down a notch, living (if that is the correct term) in the singles chart 60s. The single will probably never be a true hit (famous last words) but still refuses to die, holding first this week at Number 65 in its 20th week on release and 17th overall as a chart single.
Does Anyone Buy Albums Any More
Another unimaginably busy week for releases in what is left of the album market sees all but one of last week's Top 10 collections depart, to be replaced by eight brand new releases with once again an all-new Top 5. The combined table is headed up by Kings Of Leon who score a fifth Number One with Walls. The album has a 3:1 lead over second placed rival The Singles by the newly unretired Phil Collins. It is his highest charting album since 2010 release Going Back reached Number One. The most entertaining 'new' album is the re-issued Be Here Now from Oasis which charges in at Number 4 thanks to a brand new special edition collecting together as many odds and sods from the recording process as could be gathered. I only flag this up as the album famously remains the fastest selling release in British chart history, selling 424,000 copies in its first day on sale in August 1997. I think it is safe to say that's one which is likely to stand forever. With its sales so front loaded the album actually had a comparatively brief chart run when it first appeared. This is its first appearance in the Top 10 of the albums chart since it dipped out after 11 weeks on sale.
We should however play the game started last week. Ignore the combined albums chart which is after all dominated by physical sales and downloads and thus appealing to a certain type of consumer. What are the kids listening to? Which albums stream the most? Once more it is fascinating stuff. Drake, Bieber, Sheeran and Kanye West are the front runners, Kings Of Leon the only new arrivals to make any kind of impact where plays are concerned as they slot in at Number 3.